Do not hate your brother in your heart; לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ; you should surely rebuke your neighbor, הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֨יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ and do not carry a sin because of him. וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃
- Vayiqra 19:17
There are a number of questions about this verse that need to be addressed before we can understand it.
First, is this verse describing one mitzvah, or two? Is it a commandment to rebuke others rather than hating them in one’s heart? Or are they two distinct mitzvos – hatred and rebuke being less related. On the one hand, they do appear in the same verse. On the other, there is no conjunctive between them telling us a kind of relationship Hashem would give them.
Second, is the prohibition against hating someone in one’s heart, and if one expresses it, they didn’t violate the verse? Does Hashem mean “don’t hate him, even if only in one’s heart”? Of course, if the two are connected, then the “in your heart” is in distinction to a verbal rebuke.
Last, “do not carry a sin because of him”? Because one didn’t stop him from sinning by rebuking him one shares in future sin? Or perhaps are we talking about the sin of hating him?
The Rambam (Seifer haMitzvos, lav #302; Hilkhos Dei’os 6:5-6) understands the prohibition of hating another in one’s heart to be specifically in one’s heart. It is interesting to note that in interpersonal mitzvos, the Rambam refers to other Jews as “qetzaseinu — our part”, so that here he is literally giving the prohibition of one part of the Jewish People hating another part. Hitting or yelling at him is not a violation of this sin. But he is understood two ways.
1- The Kesef Mishnah says that the Rambam is talking about hitting or yelling when not out of hatred. But certainly hating someone to the point of lashing out at them is worse than the explicitly prohibited act of hating them internally, without expression.
2- The Yad Qetanah disagrees. The Rambam is saying that hitting the person would not be a violation of “lo sisna“. It is instead prohibited by the next verse, the prohibition against taking revenge. This prohibition is about not expressing one’s anger and seething in it, letting it build into hatred.
3- Rashi (Eirkhin 16b) links the two clauses. The prohibition is to hate someone internally rather than give them tokhachah (rebuke). This is an extention of the Yad haQetana’s opion. The key issue is holding in the hatred rather than constructively using it, and then Rashi adds the constructive use intended by the verse is tokhachah in particular.
The Ramban on our verse offers two suggestions for how to understand it.
4- Ramban first suggests that the mitzvos are not linked. It just happens to be the most common case that wrongdoing is followed by hatred and rebuke, in that order.
5- But then the Ramban presents what he feels is correct in his eyes, that the verse is giving a sequence. Hatred is defused through giving constructive criticism, which then gives him the opportunity to mend his ways. Thus agreeing with the Yad Qetanah’s understanding of the Rambam, and also with Rashi.
There is an important point here that is such an obvious part of emotional response I never stopped to consider its subtlety before. Anger is a response to an event or an experience. Anger leads to hatred. And although the Yad Qetanah doesn’t discuss it, hatred changes how I perceive future interactions with the person or thing, and therefore makes me more likely to get angry at them. The two emotions are not identical; first there is anger, and if it’s not properly managed, it becomes hatred.
This seems to be an exception to the normal rule with regard to mitzvos, that acting on idea reinforces it and embeds it further. As the Chinukh would say “a person is made according to his actions”. Anger must be constructively distilled; otherwise it grows.
The short techinah (personal request) we say after Shemoneh Esrei begins:
My G-d! אלוקי Stop my tongue from evil נצור לשוני מרע, and my lips from speaking duplicity. ושפתי מדבר מרמה.
(This is a variant of a verse from Tehillim that we say on Shabbos, in “LeDavid beShanoso es Ta’amo”, reconjugated into the first person for use as a personal request.) The Vilna Gaon discusses the first three lines of this techinah at length in Even Sheleimah. Something for another one of these essays. Here, I want to look only at what he says on this one line.
The sum of all evil middos are anger, desire, and egotism, which are “jealousy, desire and honor [remove a person from this world]”. Each includes two [parts]. Of anger: evil and duplicity. Evil is revealed, and duplicity is “one thing in the mouth, another in the heart”.[4,5]
All this is included in the tefillah of “Hashem, stop my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking duplicity.”
1- Nedarim 22a, 22b; Pesachim 66b, 113b
2- Sotah 4b, 5a; Sanhedrin 98a; Avos 4:2
3- Avos 4:21, stated by Rav Elazar haKapar
6- Beracho 17a
- Even Sheleimah 2:1
We see the Vilna Gaon associates ka’as, anger, with two subtypes: ra, the evil of expressing one’s anger, and mirma, internal anger, which is not expressed, so that there is one thing in one’s mouth, words of duplicity, and hatred in one’s heart.
This notion is tied to the one we were discussing above. The Chafetz Chaim (Be’eir Mayim Chayim on the introduction, 7th prohibition), understands the prohibition in our verse “do not hate your brother in your heart” to prohibit mirma in particular. By keeping the sin’ah internal, you are dishonestly maintaining unwarranted trust from the other person — they won’t know your motives are not in accord. He is thus siding with the understanding of the majority of our rishonim, that this prohibition is about being silent when getting angry, thus developing sin’ah.
The Vilna Gaon clearly says that we ask Hashem to guide us in a way that avoids both — expressing anger and hatred is ra, and not expressing it is mirma. Similarly, those who understand bilvavekha to exclude expressed anger would still prohibit expressing anger under the terms of the next verse, “do not take revenge, and do not repay a grudge”. They are limiting the scope here because the see the pasuq as speaking of stewing in hatred, not of anger. The Gaon’s comment on the prayer is an interpretation of anger, and thus even if he sides with them on how to read the chumash (and I do not know), he would include both in this context.
A side point about rebuke. The nature of the obligation to give constructive criticism differs depending on whether the verse is understood as linked, or as distinct mitzvos.
According to Rashi et al, the focus of tochakhah is to clear the air and avoid hatred. Thus, the primary mitzvah is on things the other did to wrong you in particlar. According to the Kesef Mishnah’s understanding of the Rambam, the obligation is broader — preventing future sin. Someone who could rebuke and doesn’t will “carry the sin for him” who wasn’t corrected. This can include rebuke for the sake of the wrongdoer learning otherwise, for making sure the sin doesn’t become an accepted part of the culture in general, or even just to reinforce one’s own’s resistence and avoiding emulating him. That too is a discussion among the rishonim, but too far off point.
One last point, the one which led me to write about this topic during the Nine Days.
If we assume the pasuq is spelling out a single concept, then the sin one is not to carry because of another is the sin of hating them. It’s not an issue of the person not deserving the hate — after all, I had something to rebuke him for that I didn’t. Rather, it’s about responding in a destructive manner.
We attribute the fall of the Second Beis haMiqdash to sin’as chinam. (The gemara suggests other sins as well, but it seems to be that one which subsequent rabbanim predominantly call our attention to to repair in ourselves.) To be overly literal, it’s “hatred for nothing”. The idiom is usually translated as “basesless hatred”, that chinam describes the cause. However, we see the Torah’s description of hatred focuses on that which has a basis. Perhaps we can instead translate it “purposeless hatred”, the goal is chinam.
This is more inclusive. Misplaced hatred is unproductive. However, it is possible to have valid reason to hate someone but because it serves no end, one should not.